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july/august 2009

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BY JOHN ROWAN

You will get this issue just before we begin the National Convention in Louisville. Unlike some of our counterparts, VVA is a truly democratic organization. The members, through their convention delegates, will choose our National Officers and Directors, amend the Constitution, and vote on resolutions. In VVA, the Convention is our highest authority.

The delegates will hear some excellent speakers, such as Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré and Pat Sajak (sorry, no Vanna), and will meet the real people behind the HBO movie Taking Chance: John Phelps, the father of Chance Phelps, a casualty of the war in Iraq, and Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who escorted Chance’s remains home. This issue contains a profile of John Phelps, who is a noted sculptor and painter and a Vietnam veteran. There may also be surprise guests. In addition, we will have representatives from the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association (see photo below from my recent trip to the Air Museum in Fargo, N.D., which had a display of the “Canadian Wall”). I hope that all the chapters have sent their entire delegations.

All the Officers attended Memorial Day services in Washington, D.C. I attended an intimate breakfast in the White House. The main guests were the Gold Star Mothers and the men and women who work in the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. To truly understand the exceptional work done by these service members, be sure to see Taking Chance.

Only a few veterans’ service organizations were invited, and we were limited to only one person per organization. President Obama came around to each of the tables paying special attention to the families of those killed in action. When the President came to my table, containing many of the commanders, he shook everyone’s hand. When he came to me, I said hello to him in Indonesian, which I learned in the Air Force. He was quite surprised, but quickly recovered and told me my accent was good.

I later joined Barry Hagge, his wife Dee, and my wife Mariann at Arlington National Cemetery. After the ceremonies, we laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Mariann presented the wreath for the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America. Jack Devine represented us at the services at The Wall. Alan Cook and the rest of us spent time at the VVA tent on the Mall along with Marsha Four, Sandy Miller, Bill Meeks, Ernestine Horton, and some great volunteers. We gave out a lot of information, particularly our new Veterans Health Council flyer, to veterans and their families.

In this issue you will find an article on the activities of the Veterans Health Council and our efforts to get the word out on the www.veteranshealth.org web site. This is the most important initiative we have ever embarked on. Too many of our brother and sister veterans are unaware that many of their health problems are related to their military service. Many spouses are unaware that their mate’s death may have been from a service-connected illness, entitling them to Dependent Indemnity Compensation. I ask every member of VVA to help get the word out about this important web site. If you do nothing else, send an e-mail to all of your friends, whether they are veterans or not, because they may know a veteran who may need the information.

 

 

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